This is the next piece in a series of posts in which I will look at the BEST St. Louis Cardinals of all time. I will do so by position. As always, I will be following a set of criteria. The criteria that affects this the most is that I only took a look at players with 3,000 or more plate appearances AS A CARDINAL. (So, Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, Darryl Porter, Mike Matheny, and others - sorry, you're out!) From there, I used a very complicated formula involving:
- WAR (a mix of fangraphs" and baseball-reference's WAR statistics)
- WAR/PA*600 (600 plate appearances is a very near approximation to a complete season, so it's basically WAR/season
- batting average
- on base percentage
- slugging percentage
- on base plus slugging
- OPS+ (takes OPS and converts it to a comparison to league average for that season or career and adjusts for ballpark)
- % of hits that are extra base hits
- BB:K (I could not compare 3rd basemen, shortstops, or corner outfielders on this statistic due to lack of data)
- XBH:K (I could not compare 3rd basemen, shortstops, or corner outfielders on this statistic due to lack of data)
- SB/PA*600 - basically SB/season
- for catchers I looked at how many players were caught stealing or picked off compared to how many people stole bases off of them
- for outfielders I looked at how many outfield assists that they got per 600 plate appearances (or per season) as well
I then took this data and ranked the players at each position against each other, accounting for small or large differences in each statistic in able to see who the best of the best was.
Without further ado, your top 3 St. Louis Cardinals' first basemen of ALL TIME!
Special mention to Mike Laga, who was the only player ever to hit a ball out of Busch Stadium II (the old, circular, cookie-cutter Busch of my youth). Yes, the ball was foul, but DAMN - out of that stadium? Are you kidding me?
3) I was absolutely astonished that #3 came as close to #2 and #1 as he did. I had no idea that Johnny "The Big Cat" Mize was an absolute BEAST at the plate as a Cardinal. Mize was signed by the Cardinals in 1930 and played his first 6 seasons in the Birds on the Bat before we traded him to the New York Giants for 3 players and cash. Mize had 4 incredible seasons outside of St. Louis, all surrounding him losing his age 30, 31, and 32 seasons to World War II. However, all 6 of his seasons in St. Louis would be categorized as incredible, to me. In his 6 seasons as a Cardinal, he led the NL in doubles once, triples once, home runs twice, RBI once, batting average once, slugging percentage three times, OPS three times, OPS+ twice, and total bases three times. He was an All-Star in four of his six seasons and finished second in the MVP voting twice (to go along with three other top 12 finishes.) In those six years, he also led the league in WAR once, finished second twice and third once. When you look at baseball-reference's similar players list, you see fantastic names like: Hank Greenberg, Chuck Klein, Dick Allen, Todd Helton, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio. 42.2% of his 1048 hits went for extra bases in his six years as a Cardinal. For most other teams, "The Big Cat" would easily be their top first baseman ever. For the Cardinals, he was pretty close statistically, but miles apart in lore.
2) Said with his distinct Dominican accent, the second best Cardinal first baseman of all time is called "The Mang," although he would prefer not to be called that. Others call him "Prince Albert." Still others have nicknamed him "Phat Albert." My favorite are the ESPN commercials that call him "The Machine." Yes, second place on the list is reserved for none other than Albert Pujols. You have heard all the numbers before. He is the only player in history to hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI in each of his first 10 seasons. He scored 99 runs in 2007 or he would be the first player to have hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 runs and RBI in each of his first 10 seasons instead. On to the nitty gritty, Albert has led the league in many categories: 5 times in runs, once in hits, once in doubles, twice in homers, once in RBI, once in batting average, once in OBP, three times in SLG, three times in OBP, four times in OPS+, four times in total bases, and four times in IBB. Albert has hit a preposterous 44.5% of his hits for extra bases - the second best of any Cardinal in this entire series of posts. He was the rookie of the year in 2001, has finished top 4 in MVP voing in 9 of his first 10 seasons (9th the other year), winning it only three times - I say "only" because he's led the league in WAR 7 times. He is a 9 time all-star, 2 time gold glover, and 6 time silver slugger. He has broken the record for assists by a first baseman in a single season. He is the active career leader in range factor for first basemen and total zone runs for first basemen. He is already a likely Hall of Famer by all four of baseball-reference's prediction methods. Oh, and he's just into his 11th season at age 31. How, might you ask, is he not the best first baseman ever for the Cardinals - as he might go down as the best right-handed hitter of all time? Because...
1) Albert does not want to be called "The Man(g)" in St. Louis. That title, he says, is reserved for our #1 player on the list. Stan "The Man" Musial. An article, by Joe Posnanski, about Stan Musial sums up why he is "The Man." (Article is linked to at bottom of page.) My thoughts are that Stan Musial started and ended his career in St. Louis, and came to bat over 5,000 more times than Albert has so far in his career. Albert very well could pass this left-handed batter as the best hitter (and player) in St. Louis history - but Albert would have to end his career here like he has continued it so far. By baseball-reference's Fan EloRater, Musial is listed as the 5th best baseball player of all time, behind Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, and Williams (Pujols is already at #15, less than 11 full seasons into his career.) According to wikipedia, when Musial retired, he shared or owned 17 major league baseball records, 29 National League records, and 9 All-Star Game records. Wow. Speaking of records, he still owns Cardinal records for nearly every offensive counting statistic - and he has been retired for over 50 seasons. He led the league in plate appearances twice, at bats once, runs five times, hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, RBI twice, walks once, batting average seven times, OBP six times, SLG six times, OPS seven times, OPS+ six times, and total bases six times. He was a 20 time All-Star and 3 time MVP - actually, there used to be more than one all-star game a season, so he played in 24 All-Star games in 20 seasons. He is also second in career shares of MVP voting. Even though he only won 3 MVPs, he led the league in WAR 4 times and offensive WAR 6 times. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1969 by 93.2% of the BBWAA. That is why "The Machine" still calls this Cardinal great "The Man" and he is #1 on my list of Cardinals' first basemen.
Congratulations to those 3 great Cardinal first basemen!
The next post in the series will be Cardinal second basemen.
1) Stan Musial - 13.429
2) Albert Pujols - 12.788
3) Johnny Mize - 11.828
4) Charlie Comiskey - 10.480
5) Jim Bottomley - 9.921
6) Keith Hernandez - 9.303
7) Ripper Collins - 9.295
8) Ed Konetchy - 8.993
9) Bill White - 8.307
Note #1: Article about Stan "The Man" Musial: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/01/31/musial/
Note #2: It was slightly more difficult re-reading #2 that it was writing it in August...
This series was originally researched in early August, so statistics of current players may be slightly off now.